Ever wanted to commit suicide? No? Me neither, but evidently the titular creatures in The Splatters were designed with suicide in mind; they have no self preservation and their only instinct is to commit suicide in the goriest, flashiest manner possible, which for some reason awards heaps of points. In their lifelong quest to end themselves, the splatters will ram themselves headlong into walls, impale themselves on spikes, or launch into a pile of explosive bombs. This doesn't sound like a particularly engaging mechanic for a physics based puzzle game, but its simplicity mixed with the peculiar set of skills you acquire along the way is actually pretty fun.
I was disappointed at first to see that the game only lasted 12 levels consisting of 1-5 stages each, interspersed with tutorials to explain how the game worked; at least until I realized the error in my perception. As it stands, those 12 levels were just the introduction to get you acquainted with the game's unique physics and game mechanics. The remaining 58 levels were sorted between a game mode dedicated to combo mastery and a game mode with stipulations focusing on trick shots. While the tutorial levels were tricky enough on their own, the rest of the game proved itself to be a real challenge, tripping me up once every couple levels and halting my progress, but that made my victory all the more sweet.
The object of the game is to aim with the left stick and hurl your amoeba-like creature in such a way that they explode into a jelly-like goop that ignites the color-corresponding bombs strewn about the level. You can hurl yourself into a spike for an instant jelly-splosion, or you can try to slam headfirst into a wall to get the same effect, but different actions and angles will result in your corpse-goo being dispersed in different and often unpredictable ways. While the physics in the game are pretty solid, a difference in a few degrees can drastically alter the landscape in a significant way. On one level that I got stuck at, I tried to do the exact same thing a dozen times and got 8 distinctively different results, which was decidedly frustrating.
Because of this discrepancy, I found that some levels were needlessly repetitive due to the amount of attempts needed to get that special sweet spot, or that I failed on some levels in spite of them being remarkably simple because I was off a few degrees and the splatter entrails didn't quite make it to the bomb I was aiming at. While the inconsistency in aiming can be frustrating, the physics engine and level design mean that there are dozens of possible solutions to each puzzle. Depending on what abilities you want to use or how you want to manipulate the physics of the world, you could have an entirely different set of solutions, and I think that's a powerful asset to a game like this when compared to games where you are restricted to one solution, limiting replay value.
What I personally liked most about The Splatters was the arsenal of abilities you get to play with and the combo system. As you progress through the introduction levels, you are granted skills that allow you to change trajectory mid-flight, turn yourself into an aggressive rocket, or even reverse momentum on a whim if you're fast enough. You can combo these skills together to get your blob rocketing around the levels at every angle if you had the skill to do so, and being quick with your button presses can multiply your score by an incredible margin. On some levels, the score threshold for 2 stars can be something like 200 000 points, whereas getting three stars requires over 10x that many points, rocketing you into the millions. Watching some of the high score runs for some of the later levels have players shattering records with 45 million point scores; a feat I don't think I could ever match.
In addition to the whopping 70 levels that could take you anywhere between 5-12 hours depending on skill and dedication, you can also watch top score runs posted by friends and others online, or upload your own attempts for people to laugh at (or bow at your feet for you are their gaming God; I expect people will just laugh at my feeble attempts at barely passing.) Naturally, a game like this also comes with its own set of leaderboards for each and every level, so tweaking your strategy and gunning for a higher score can really mean something when coupled with the ability to watch top score runs and emulate and improve upon their style.
There's not a whole lot to say about the game's look and sound, other than it looks really good. The levels are well-designed and have a crisp sheen thanks to the fact that they're mostly static, and the engine really lends itself well to the particle physics that accompany your exploding blob and the exploding bombs, with special celebratory explosions accompanying high combos and the final bomb of the level. The sound effects, while cute, tend to simply be there as background noise. That said, the charm stat was maxed, and the goofy grins on the splatters themselves was adorable, even as they were hurled to their death.
To be honest, I spent a lot more time enjoying what The Splatters had to offer than complaining about the little issues that kept me from getting the most out of it. While I did find that, from time to time, the physics meant that puzzle solving was a hit or miss affair based on miniscule alterations to your aim, I liked that it opened the game up for multiple solutions per level and the sheer number of levels meant that it's definitely worth your time and money at 800 MSP. Now if only they could add a level editor, I would be in heaven.
This review is based on a digital download for XBLA, provided by the publisher.
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